Did you know that there are over 3,300 islands in the Mediterranean? Each one has its own unique cultural sights, traditional foods and colorful festivals, which can make it tough to decide between them. Which is why we’ve come up with our favourite ten Mediterranean holiday islands;
Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast boasts Roman ruins, unique natural beauty and divine beaches. The 375km (233 mile) long lush coastline is dotted with small islands, such as Hvar, Korcula and Mljet. The unspoilt naturally beautiful wilderness of the Adriatic island of Mljet offers dramatic natural scenery and also has a wealth of interesting things to see and do all year round. A third of the island is made up of a rugged National Park which offers a superb getaway-from-it-all area for keen hikers and walkers. In fact Mljet is dubbed the greenest island within Croatia. Expect quaint villages, hidden bays and gorgeous beaches. Don’t miss the heritage sites of the ornate 12th century St Mary monastery, the archaeological site of St Paul’s church and the ruins of the Roman Palace of Polace.
Mention the perennial family favourite holiday spot of the Balearic Islands and no doubt the big-hitters of Majorca, Minorca and Ibiza would spring to mind. But don’t forget the ‘other’ Balearic island of Formentera, which is popular with eco adventurers. Thanks to its flat landscape and year round temperate climate, it’s the perfect spot for cycling, sailing, snorkelling and walking. There are a handful of historical sights too within the Ca Na Costa Megalithic Site, the roman road, the tiny Ethnological museum and the ornate 18th century Sant Francesc Xavier Chapel.
The very southern Mediterranean Sea hides the hotspot of Djerba Island, which is part of exotic and enticing Tunisia with its interesting Arabic culture steeped in Roman ruins and traditional medinas. Djerba is where Africa meets the Med and as you’d expect there are superb watersports facilities, a wealth of cultural sights and year-round sun: a genuine winter destination. Don’t miss haggling at Houmt Souk, spotting the neon-pink birdlife of Flamingo Island and diehard Star Wars fans will appreciate the famous Mos Eisley Set.
Greece has so many islands that the actual number can only be estimated – anything from 1,000 to 6,000. Just 227 are inhabited including the second largest of Euboea (largest is Crete) in the Aegean Islands chain. It has a laidback vibe, thanks to the fact that it’s largely off the mainstream tourist trail. Activities are focussed around the beautiful family-friendly beaches with a wealth of watersports facilities: try snorkelling swimming and scuba diving. Heritage wise, check out the ancient ruins of the Dragon House at Ochi Mountain, explore the Tzivani Wine Museum Tzivani at Khalkis and wander the pretty St. John the Russian Church in the same village. And watch out for Chiliadou Beach at Steni, which is a nudist beach!
The fourth largest of the Mediterranean Islands, Corsica, is nicknamed ‘the mountain in the sea’ as it spears to rise up out of the Med. Its geographical diversity lends itself perfectly to outdoor pursuits; from hiking and climbing to swimming and surfing. Adventure seekers can tackle Monte Cinto which has over fifty peaks surpassing 2,000 meters, with an ultimate peak of 2,710m. Spot the rich and varied wildlife and birdlife of within the UNESCO listed Calanche of Piana, home to eagles, boar and various reptile species. And don’t miss cultural Calvi with its exquisite Citadel and Chappell de Notre Dame de la Sierre with commanding views out over the Med.
Ksamil Islands, Albania
The four small islands that make up Ksamil are pleasingly remote and make up part of Albania’s UNESCO-listed Butrint National Park. These little gems can only be reached by boat where you can spend all day walking and hiking the pristine landscape and while away your evenings dining at the handful of authentic seafood restaurants.
From the tiniest of the Mediterranean holiday islands to the largest: Sicily. At over 25,000 km2 it packs an almighty punch, both culturally and historically! The religious sites are astounding; from the best preserved Doric temple on the planet, the Temple of Concord at Agrigento to the handsome Monreale Norman Cathedral of Palermo. Then of course there’s impressive Mount Etna, whose 3,323 meter dominates the island and the incredibly fertile soil of the active volcano gives the local Sicilian food and wine an incredible depth of flavour. And finally there’s the world-class Rabbit beach of Lampedusa, voted the best beach in the world no less!
The small country of Malta is a perennial family favourite, with a rich history dating back to the Neolithic era. Rule by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, French and the British, amongst others, have left an incredibly rich and diverse heritage. Don’t miss UNESCO World Heritage Site of Valletta which is also the capital and home to the highly ornate St. John’s Co-Cathedral, the impressive staterooms of the Palace of the Grand Masters and the formidable Fort St. Elmo. Wander the old walled city of Mdina, explore the exhibits within the Classic Car Collection Museum of Qawra and discover the ancient ruins of the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum at Paola.
Fusing both Asian and European influences, Cyprus has been a firm favourite with travellers for many years, particularly along the popular south coast regions of Larnaca, Limassol and Paphos. Of particular interest is Nicosia which is the largest divided capital city in the world; physically split by barbed wire fences after decades of political wrangling. History lovers mustn’t miss the legendary site of Paphos, where Greek goddess Aphrodite was born and which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Keen mountaineers and skiiers will appreciate the get-away-from-it atmosphere of the mighty Troodos Mountains, which rise to 1,952 meters.
Bay of Kotor, Montenegro
The beautiful old town of Kotor and her islands are the last on our list of beautiful Mediterranean Holiday Islands. Kotor itself is one of two UNESCO sites within Montenegro and the islands within the bay offer superb diving opportunities as well as peaceful snorkelling sites. Kotor boasts a delightful Old Town (Stari Grad) which grew up around Boka Kotorska Bay, the deepest fjord in the Mediterranean. The various islands within the bay include; uninhabited Mamula is dominated by a huge fort built in 1853; Prevlaka, aka Island of Flowers is connected to mainland Montenegro; abandoned Sveti Marko is lush and green and the artificial Gospa od Škrpjela, aka Our Lady of the Rocks, which is formed from a sunken ship.